May at Chickadee Gardens

Pandemic, stress, feeling overwhelmed....the relief for so many of us seems to be gardening. The nursery where I work is still busier than ever with record sales days many times this month. We're a small nursery, so it's tough, but we're trying our best! The good bit about all of the chaos is that hopefully new gardeners are emerging, finding a love of growing green things like many of us already do. Even with all this busyness there are so many possibilities for blog posts running through my head, and as we've had more than average rain lately, the garden is especially alive and vibrant. Suffice it to say we've been busy here, too (spring garden chores), but I think a simple post highlighting some of the plants and views at Chickadee Gardens for the month of May is in order before yucky chores and whatnot. So. Here's a tour at a time when the flowers begin to take center stage and fresh spring green is still a dominant color:

At the outer edge of the Labyrinth Garden, a sea of blues and purples dominate. On the left is Penstemon cardwelii, a native evergreen sub-shrub of a penstemon that I really like. There are two Lavandula stoechas and the tall spiky blue-ish plant is Baptisia australis, blue false indigo. All of these plants are drought-tolerant.

Tetrapanax papyriferum also known as rice paper plant has grown significantly in the last year and has also sent out about, oh, 10 or so shoots. It thinks it's forming a colony even though I keep yanking them out.

Also at the edge of the Labyrinth Garden is a Phlomis russeliana in front of Ceanothus 'Italian Skies'. Eschscholzia californica 'Alba' in front.

The fire pit garden is looking fine. The soft blue grass is Festuca rubra 'Patrick's Point' and the ones next to it are Muhlenbergia rigens or deer grass. Both are West Coast natives.

Penstemon 'Electric Blue' really is the bluest of all.

Two dwarf columnar apple trees mark the edge of the Labyrinth Garden and the beginning of the veggie garden.

Papaver rhoeas from seeds I bought at Kew a couple of years ago. Last year's poppies were allowed to go to seed, so we have another year of them. I finally achieved a photo that looks accurately "red."

Dianthus 'Frostfire', another sun lover. The area where this is planted has been updated a little.  In the fall, I took out a rather large swath of Coreopsis 'Moonbeam' and planted it elsewhere. In its place I planted an orange flowering coreopsis along with Helianthemum 'Henfield Brilliant' and let Eschscholzia californica, California poppies go to seed, so it will be hot pinks and oranges rather than hot pinks and yellows. 

Amsonia hubrichtii, commonly known as blue star. The fall color on this one is unsurpassed.

Papaver 'Pizzicato' has consistently been this beautiful coral color for me, although I understand they can come in a range of colors.

Heuchera 'Old La Rochette', possibly my favorite heuchera. Its evergreen rosettes of foliage look good for much of the year and the frothy nature of this pretty flower is striking en masse. It's got sanguinea blood in it so is sun tolerant and tough.

Gilia tricolor or bird's eyes gilia is a native annual wildflower, I let it seed around in the meadow.

A path through the gravel garden and meadow (the end of the meadow is on the left) towards the western shrub area and driveway beyond.

Mounds of perennials, grasses and some sub-shrubs at the meeting point of the meadow and Labyrinth Garden.

Heuchera sanguinea 'Northern Fire'

The edge of the Meadow Garden with Sidalcea campestris, a native checker mallow, front and center.

I tend to go more for foliage and texture before flowers.

The eastern edge of the Labyrinth Garden. Last year and this year have been all about edging the beds and cleaning up rough areas, a bit of polishing. And filling in mole holes with water to keep ugly soil blemishes from forming, as once they do and bake in the sun for a day or two, it's like that for the rest of the year. I think on average I fill in 15 mole holes a day. There's an evil satisfaction in filling them in.

Polished granite sculptures by our friend and artist Michihiro Kosuge.

I really like the look of low-mounding plants. Here, it allows me to see past them to the taller plants beyond as seen from our bedroom window (top right).

Looking west from behind my blue shed, Casa Azul. That's our favorite tree, the Oregon white oak Quercus garryana on the left.

Under the oak, Buddha faces east, surrounded by Ceanothus gloriosus and an unknown ajuga spreading into the "lawn" below. I believe that's Arctostaphylos 'Howard McMinn' behind him.

Viburnum rhytidophyllum, a semi-evergreen viburnum. This was a gift from Ricki of Sprig to Twig.

We've been letting the orchard grass grow tall and mowing paths through it. FM mowed an area around the bench for a little secluded hidey-hole.

Berberis jamesiana, a magnificent barberry. This was a gift from Anna of Flutter and Hum. Quite large, this one also has wicked thorns. The flowers turn to coral clusters of berries in fall. It also has amazing fall color.

An unknown-to-me Lonicera or honeysuckle.

Physocarpus opulifolius 'Diabolo' or ninebark. This large shrub is so striking in the border, it really stands out with its dark foliage contrasted by pink-blushed white flowers.

Lupine seedling, a volunteer many yards away from any other lupines, so I truly have no idea of its identity.

Foliage of Cornus alba 'Elegantissima', so light and airy. The fall color on this is amazing, too. 

Sweet Saxifraga primuloides by the front door.

The view out of the front door, mostly oranges and chocolate colors. Geum 'Totally Tangerine' taking center stage.

The Agave neomexicana are doing well.

Parahebe catarractae, a small evergreen sub-shrub with sweet white flowers. There is also a lavender-blue flowering version called P. 'Delight'.

A section of the Berm Garden that is primarily whites, although you wouldn't know that from this shot. Trust me.

There you have it, a tour of a few bits of the May garden. Now we must get back to weeding, planting, feeding chickens, cleaning coops, filling in mole holes, filling bird baths, cleaning hummingbird feeders, watering, pruning and oh, enjoying the garden. We truly hope you are able to enjoy some green space too. I wonder if after this pandemic is over if the new gardeners will still garden...let's collectively cross our fingers and help them along. The world needs more gardeners. Do you hear that, newbies? Keep on gardening! We're here for you.

That's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always, thank you so much for reading and happy gardening!


  1. Wonderful! I just planted another "Electric Blue" penstemon, I love the one I have so much. (I love penstemons in general.) : )

    1. How do you keep your P. Electric Blue nice looking - mine just sprawls all over even with trimming. It's pretty when in bloom but otherwise, not so much...

    2. Stephilius, great choice! Penstemons are among my favorite plants.

    3. Colleen - well, it's in full sun with gravel at the base and it gets no supplemental water from me. Sun is key, I think - and kind of crummy soil.

  2. Your garden looks glorious, Tamara. That bright green and purple/blue combination can't be beat. I love the photo of the Buddha too - that spot is especially peaceful.

    1. Thank you Kris. The Buddha...he's my buddy in the garden, watches over Lucy's grave. :)

  3. Hollyrose Nelson10:11 AM PDT

    I was missing my garden blog stroll with you, Tam ��

    The weeds this spring were almost unmanageable my little home..and with no FM of my own, I had a couple landscaping teens flex their root pulling brawn....*PHEW*

    Thanks again for sharing ~ wonderful supporting info..who wants to water?


    1. Aaah, is your garden stroll!! Yes, I'm pretty lucky to have an FM - although teens flexing their brawn is pretty useful, too.

      Thank you for reading and commenting my friend!!

  4. Anonymous12:09 PM PDT

    rain, then sun, then rain...isn't it wonderful how everything continues to look fresh through it all. That low, mounding look is something I hope to emulate, even though I am constantly attracted to trees and shrubs. I just need to keep coming here for inspiration!

    1. Fresh....aaah...

      The low moundy thing is something that took a LOOOONG time to achieve...I was in denial that tall things spoiled the look. Anyhow, it's all good and shrubs and trees rock. So there. xo

  5. Tamara, it is stunning and so are your photos!

    1. That is high praise indeed, Sir, coming from you and your AMAZING garden. Thank you!

  6. That POPPY!!!! Yowsers! I'll chime in with Rickii on praising your "mounding look". It really does look fab! Wonderful also to see the Barberry in bloom - it's so elegant with its gentle arching ways and those airy, drooping clusters. Uber sexy!

    1. Oh, which one - the P. rhoeas?

      The moundy look is one I love...can't remember where I first experienced it but it's so satisfying. The barberry, thank you again, Anna Bean! It keeps on giving.

  7. Oh that Papaver rhoeas photo is just stunning. Wow. Everything is looking so darn fabulous!

  8. I so enjoy looking at your beautiful garden.

  9. Such a pleasure to watch your garden unfold in May! Heuchera are starting to catch my eye, now that I've got conditions that might suit them. I'm always surprised by how much they bloom, like your 'Northern Fire.'


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